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2019-02-22 13:16:41

Sun-starved netizens in China’s eastern and southern regions are flooding social media with wry commiserations over this month’s unusually long spate of rain.

One widely shared image depicts a cartoon sun in front of four microphones as if at a press conference, with text along the top asking, “Are you dead?” Another resembling a movie poster reads, “‘The Wandering Sun’ is now in theaters,” referencing a similarly named sci-fi blockbuster from China about a sunless Earth. A third likens the seemingly endless number of rainy days in parts of the country to an unlimited data package for mobile phones.

Alluding to such social media queries about the sun’s disappearance, a hashtag translating to “the question from people in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai” — three places in the country affected by the dreary weather — had been viewed over 260 million times on microblogging site Weibo by Friday evening.

Not to be outdone, some government weather services have gotten in on the fun as well. The Weibo account of a meteorological bureau in Nanjing, the capital city of Jiangsu province, featured the quizzical hashtag alongside emojis of a puzzled face in a post on Wednesday. “Did you think I wasn’t wondering [about this]?” the bureau asked.

The next day, the same account posted an image that dubbed China’s forlorn sun-seekers “the modern Kuafu,” referring to a giant in Chinese mythology who sought to catch the heavenly body. “They long for the sun, they want the sun, they need the sun,” the text on the image reads. “They desire the sun from the depths of their hearts.”

All memes found online and re-edited by Ding Yining/Sixth Tone

All memes found online and re-edited by Ding Yining/Sixth Tone

Other messages from official outlets attempted to demystify the curious case of the missing star. “The sun didn’t pass away, nor did it go wandering around,” a meteorological center under the country’s national weather service wrote on its official Weibo account Wednesday. Citing a recent news report about El Niño, the center explained that the climate phenomenon “is a crucial factor causing the constant rain in the southern part of our country.”

Government weather figures may justify netizens’ feelings of misery. Data released Wednesday from the official Jiangsu Climate Center show that, from the beginning of December 2018 to mid-February of this year, the province saw just 217.4 hours of sunshine — or less than three hours per day on average.

Meanwhile, Shanghai had only 13 days that included sunshine over the past 82-day period, whereas rain was present on 47 of those days, according to official statistics aggregated Friday by Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper. A meteorological authority in Shanghai said on Saturday that the city saw 38 rainy days between December 2018 and Feb. 13 of this year, the second-longest streak of such weather in the last century.

Benny Zhang, a 23-year-old Shanghai native, told Sixth Tone that he had never experienced a rainy spell like this in his entire life. He said he spent the first half of this month vacationing on the West Coast of the U.S., hoping to avoid China’s gloomy weather altogether.

“It rained in the Pacific Northwest as well,” he said. “But compared to Shanghai, it was easy peasy.” He claims the city’s strong winds and precipitation even landed him in the hospital for four days with an IV drip.

“Shanghai is uninhabitable,” Zhang complained, adding that he’s already looking forward to another vacation.

Editor: Layne Flower.

(Header image: Shi Yangkun and Ding Yining/Sixth Tone)